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WRAP | 'No problem with that' - Ramaphosa says journalists should qualify as essential workers for Covid-19 jab

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26 February 16:11

Ramaphosa thanks journalists and editors for the engagement.

The end. 

26 February 16:11

Sanef chair Sbu Ngalwa says journalists should be "considered" among essential service workers in relation to the vaccination programme. "I would see no problem with journalists being amongst the first to get the vaccine," Ramaphosa replied. "You are on the frontline... I will raise it with the minister of health," he says.

- Kamva Somdyala

26 February 16:09

Adriaan, would it not be useful if the president has regular press conferences with political and beat reporters? I'm wondering whether these types of engagements gives us better insight? Of course some facetime is better than no facetime, but it feels like we have so much ground to cover and very little time that we don't really make headway.

- Pieter du Toit

Yes, Pieter, we definitely need a more formalised engagement with the president, but I did enjoy this engagement, I thought Ramaphosa was open and frank about a number of matters, including to yours about the judiciary.

- Adriaan Basson

26 February 16:02

On Zondo commission and the SSA, Ramaphosa says he will wait for the final report before he makes decisions, suggesting the he won't take action against former SSA boss Arthur Fraser (now commissioner of prisons) and former intelligence minister David Mahlobo (now deputy minister of housing) who were both implicated in wrongdoing, unless Judge Zondo says or recommends so.

- Adriaan Basson

26 February 15:59

The president is non-committal about revelations that came out of the Zondo commission in regards to the State Security Agency (they were shocking). He says South Africa must wait for the report, that he will examine it and that there will be "follow-through". He emphasises that he needs to act in a "procedural manner". That's been a hallmark of his presidency, moving slowly and sticking to process.

- Pieter du Toit

26 February 15:53

"We are going through a very difficult time." The president sounds very concerned about South Africa's growing debt bill and says it will soon overtake spending on education and health. There is no silver lining here; we simply don't have the money.

- Adriaan Basson

26 February 15:49

Ramaphosa is answering the question about public sector wage bill very softly. He clearly doesn't want to commit to anything before negotiations with trade unions have started. But as we saw in the budget speech this week, a saving on the public wage bill has already been incorporated into our financial planning.

- Adriaan Basson

<p>Ramaphosa is answering the question about public sector wage bill very softly. He clearly doesn't want to commit to anything before negotiations with trade unions have started. But as we saw in the budget speech this week, a saving on the public wage bill has already been incorporated into our financial planning.</p><p><em>- Adriaan Basson</em></p>

26 February 15:47

Ramaphosa says government "has the political will" to deal with the land question. Unfortunately a succession of governments have not shown any will - not to mention allocate budget - to address the issue. He references the new Expropriation Bill, which has been the subject of serious campaigning by the DA and the Institute of Race Relations, who argue that it will enable the state to take almost any property. Many legal experts don't agree. (The current expropriation act dates from 1976, I think, and is not in line with the Constitution).

- Pieter du Toit

Here's the fact check done by in-depth reporter James de Villiers

26 February 15:35

Troubling that Ramaphosa sees nothing wrong with Police Minister Bheki Cele's visit to Zuma. He acknowledges that perceptions could be problematic (Cele is a respondent in the Zondo commission's application to the Constitutional Court) and admits they discussed the matter. Remains unclear in which capacity he went: as an ANC luminary, or minister of police? 

- Pieter du Toit

26 February 15:34

Ramaphosa defends Police Minister Bheki Cele's visit to Zuma in Nkandla; says Cele was "impelled" to go to Nkandla to have a "heart to heart" meeting with Zuma about the situation with the Zondo Commission. Ramaphosa says he is comfortable with the visit (Cele submitted a report) and that it was "as plain and simple as that".

I'm unconvinced... being the police minister, Cele should not have been seen to be having friendly discussions with any suspect in a criminal matter.

- Adriaan Basson

26 February 15:26

There has been much speculation about Mboweni's future and National Treasury's position in the architecture of state. It used to be the Rolls Royce of government departments, but there has been significant losses of skills and institutional knowledge over the last couple of years. That, coupled with Mboweni's seeming disaffection with his, job has many wondering whether Treasury still is the class act it once was. 

- Pieter du Toit

26 February 15:25

Adriaan, the argument against a state bank is of course very strong. Do the state, given its management of other state-owned companies, have the capability to run a bank? And what of the Postbank?

- Pieter du Toit

Yes, Pieter, that is the million dollar (or Rand) question: how will the state bank be funded, in light of our fiscal crunch. But Ramaphosa made compelling arguments that the big 5 or 6 banks are too risk averse for especially SMMEs.

- Adriaan Basson

26 February 15:25

Many questions about the future of Mboweni as finance minister. He was reluctant to take the job in the first place. "I know nothing about this, there is no discussion about this," says Ramaphosa. The president says Mboweni has built a very good, young team in Treasury.

- Adriaan Basson

26 February 15:17

Ramaphosa says the National Coronavirus Command Council is giving consideration to how the country continues to deal with the pandemic as infections drop. He says "shortly we will make an announcement" about how government will manage the virus going forward.

- Kamva Somdyala

26 February 15:16

That was a very positive "yes" from Ramaphosa to the idea of a state bank. He effectively repeated Finance Minister Tito Mboweni's arguments that the banking sector is dominated by 4 or 5 banks and that they are risk averse. A state bank has to be properly capitalised - the question remains, of course, with what money?

- Adriaan Basson

26 February 15:15

On the question when the state will publish the infrastructure book of projects, Ramaphosa admits he is frustrated at the lack of projects. He wants to see construction taking place and not talk about it anymore. He mentions a solar power project in Postmasburg, Northern Cape that will kick-off soon, and also refers to R11.6bn for roads projects.

- Adriaan Basson

26 February 15:11

Also significant, I thought, that Ramaphosa said the message to Zuma will be that the rule of law needs to be respected, which implies they will tell him to appear in front of the Zondo commission as his subpoena dictates.

- Pieter du Toit

26 February 15:11

Following Ramaphosa's reply: I think he navigated it well. I wanted some form of commitment to the rule of law from him, and he gave that. He also revealed that the ANC's leadership will be meeting Zuma soon, after some conflicting reports that Zuma rejected the party's overtures.

- Pieter du Toit

26 February 15:10

Question to Ramaphosa from Pieter du Toit: Mr. President, your predecessor has made his disdain for the rule of law clear. He, and the leader of the EFF, have launched unsubstantiated attacks on the judiciary, making damaging claims of judges being bought. You have made a statement saying the rule of law must be expected.

Does Mr Zuma’s rejection of the authority of the country’s highest court, his attacks on judges and refusal to adhere to the subpoena by the Zondo commission, undermine your and your party’s credibility? If the president and his party does not unequivocally and clearly condemn this, in no uncertain terms, should we fear for the future of an independent judiciary?

26 February 15:05

On questions surrounding the ruction caused by former president Zuma, Ramaphosa says "any day soon", the ANC top brass will "have an engagement with him... the message will be clear: let us all abide by our constitution and institutions."

- Kamva Somdyala

26 February 15:04

Ramaphosa sounds very serious and perturbed about the scurrilous accusations made against the judiciary in recent weeks by former president Jacob Zuma and EFF leader Julius Malema, inter alia. Come with evidence, show your proof. "Judges are not above the law," says Ramaphosa, but pleads for critics to bring evidence.

- Adriaan Basson

26 February 15:00

Having concluded his opening remarks, the president now takes questions from journalists. 

26 February 14:56

I think it's interesting that Rampahosa has revealed he didn't want to be vaccinated in the first round of inoculations, but at the very end. He was convinced - by his advisers and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize I suppose - to take the vaccine to show trust of the government through the head of state in the J&J vaccine. It reflects his concern about the trust of South Africans in Covid-19 vaccines.

- Adriaan Basson

26 February 14:55

"The fight against corruption is gaining momentum. It is unstoppable... it will continue and this time it will not be stopped," Ramaphosa says. He says a lot of work has been done in capacitating law enforcement agencies to stop the graft.

- Kamva Somdyala

26 February 14:50

"The vaccination project is most crucial in defeating pandemic," President Cyril Ramaphosa says, as he begins his address to editors. He says he wanted to be "the very last" to get vaccinated but with the fumbling of the AstraZeneca vaccine, being among the first to get the jab was an attempt to instill public confidence.

- Kamva Somdyala

26 February 14:39

Chairperson of the South African National Editors Forum, Sbu Ngalwa is invited to speak. He notes that the Q&A happens a week before we mark a year since the first Covid-19 case was reported in South Africa.

26 February 14:36

Acting Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni gets us underway. 

26 February 14:23

President Cyril Ramaphosa is today engaging in a question-and-answer session with the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef).

The session gives editors and senior journalists convened by Sanef an opportunity to put questions to the President on matters of national importance. This will include the unpacking of this year’s State of the Nation Address priorities, which entail defeating the coronavirus pandemic, economic recovery, economic reform, and fighting corruption and strengthening the state.

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